(BPT) – Larry Bowa may be known for his baseball prowess and fiery personality, but in June 2013, the two-time Golden Glove-winner was stopped in his tracks by a case of shingles, which he says caused him some of the worst pain of his life. Bowa said the pain he felt was so intense he could barely walk, originally leading him to think he had injured his back. But his MRI came back negative, and he received instead an unexpected diagnosis of shingles.
“I was a professional athlete for most of my life, and I’m still an active guy, so I was surprised to find that I developed a disease this painful,” said Bowa, 67.
Bowa learned that he was at risk for shingles simply because he had had chickenpox, which according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 98 percent of US adults has had.
Shingles is the common name for herpes zoster, a disease caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus never leaves the body. Instead, it lies dormant in the nervous system, and at some point later in life, it can reactivate and erupt as shingles and as you get older your risk increases.
The first symptoms of shingles are often felt, but may not be seen, and may initially include itching, tingling or burning in a specific area on one side of the face or body; for Bowa, it was the inside of his right leg. The pain is often followed by a rash in a band or strip along the affected area, and for Bowa, his rash persisted for three or four weeks, but the pain lasted much longer.
“Before I had shingles, I didn’t know anything about the disease, and I think this is the case for most people despite the fact almost everyone knows someone who has had it. That’s why I want to share my personal story to raise public awareness about people’s risk of disease and its severity,” Bowa said, who is partnering with Merck to help educate about shingles.
According to the CDC, one in three people will get shingles in their lifetime, and there are approximately one million cases of shingles each year in the United States. There’s no way to predict if or when someone will get shingles, or how severe the case could be, so speaking with a healthcare provider to understand personal risk is important.
To learn more about shingles, talk to your doctor or pharmacist and visit shinglesinfo.com.